The recent of passing of Professor Rick Jones (see Rick Jones obituary) caused me to reflect on the past.
I was very fortunate to earn a work placement with Dr Rick Jones at The University of Leeds in the summer of 1990. Rick was enthusiastic about the role of IT in medicine, and after securing funding for a full-time position he employed me as a computer programmer. Early projects included software for automating the monitoring of various blood marker tests and software to diagnose Down’s syndrome. At the time many hospitals had in-house solutions for diagnosing Down’s syndrome, and although the project took many years and the help of many other people to complete, it eventually gained widespread adoption.
Around 1992, Rick came up with the idea of a statistics package that integrated into Microsoft Excel. Armed with a ring bound folder containing the Excel SDK and a pile of medical statistics books, I set about the task of writing the software in C++. It wasn’t long before the first version of Astute was ready and commercially released.
Never short of ideas for new projects, Rick started leaving journal articles in my in-tray covering subjects such as Deming and Passing-Bablok regression, Galen-Gambino sensitivity/specificity and ROC analysis. Rick had widespread experience and knowledge of the statistics needed in the clinical laboratory, and was keen to make the subject less daunting and more accessible to clinicians. The plan was to extend Astute to include these new statistical techniques. It would be an entirely new type of statistics package, so new in fact that when we released the product we didn’t have a good name for it and it was simply called “Astute - Module 1”.
Rick later co-authored the book Clinical Investigation and Statistics in Laboratory Medicine and it helped many clinicians better understand and appreciate the use of statistics in the laboratory.
Eventually, I moved on from Leeds University to co-found Analyse-it, and develop the successor to Astute. The ‘Module 1’ product transformed into the Clinical Laboratory Module and later into the Method Validation Edition. From its conception in Astute, to its implementation to Analyse-it, the product has transformed method validation in clinical laboratories and in-vitro diagnostic companies around the world.
Without Rick, Analyse-it would not exist today. Rick was the original catalyst and visionary for the product. Although I am writing this with great sadness, reflecting on the past, Rick’s enthusiasm for life leaves me positive and inspired. His inspiration will live on through Analyse-it.